Brief History of the Johnson Minnow

Brief History of the Johnson Minnow

johnson minnow red

Reader Chuck at BellSouth sent me a question about my three favorite lures for blind casting in the lagoons. My response was:

-the Chug Bug
-the Johnson Minnow
-the DOA Deadly Combo

Chuck replied with the following:

“Thanks for tips!

“Would have never guessed the old Johnson Minnow spoon would make the list. But after doing some research on this lure, I now understand why it works well in Mosquito Lagoon.

“You might be interested in the history of the Johnson Silver Minnow and why it’s unique design makes it so successful.”

Silver Minnow is still shining after 73 years

The Johnson Silver Minnow, one of the most enduring and successful fishing lures of all time, was invented in 1920 by Louis Johnson, a retired Chicago foundry operator. The lake where Louis and his son fished was full of fish, but it was also weedy. So, with the practical style of many creative Midwesterners, he set out to develop a fishing lure that would not catch weeds but still catch fish.

The result was the first spoon lure with a weed guard, stiff enough to keep weeds away from the hook, but flexible enough for bass and pike to get hooked. In fact, his experimental spoon lures were made from silver table spoons with the handles cut off and a Scents hook and weed guard soldered to the concave underside. History does not record whether these first spoons were silver plate or genuine sterling, but the idea of having a fishing lure made of silver caught his imagination. Seventy-three years later, the Johnson Silver Minnow is still plated with real silver.

Like other spoon lures of the day, the Johnson Silver Minnow was designed to imitate the flashing movement of a minnow. Other manufacturers had long incorporated flashing spinners into the design of their lures, but Louis Johnson’s new lure was the first to integrate a guarded hook onto the spoon, and the first to use real silver for a whiter, brighter flash than chrome of polished steel.

Johnson didn’t work with his “table spoon” very long before the learned something else about designing the perfect weedless lure: hooks that faced up were less weedy than hooks that faced down or spun around from the lure’s action. Even a guarded hook would catch weeds occasionally if it was retrieved with the hook facing down. Johnson reasoned that if he could figure out a way to ensure that the hook would always face up, the lure would be almost completely weedless.

Putting his years of foundry experience to work, Johnson decided to forge a spoon of a special copper/zinc alloy that was thicker in the middle than on the edges. With its weight concentrated along its centerline, this created a spoon that would rock back and forth as it was retrieved, but always keep the convex face down and the hook facing up. Other spoons of the day were simply stamped out of brass or steel. They often just spun through the water as they were retrieved. In fact, much of the Silver Minnow’s weedlessness can be attributed to the way in which the downward-riding spoon itself acts as a weed guard — and simply rides over weeds much like a water skier rides of the waves.

By getting the lure to keep its convex spoon side down and it hook up, Johnson also unwittingly made the lure visually effective under water. When retrieved, Johnson’s Silver Minnow rocks back and forth through a 270 degree angle, flashing reflections downs and to both sides, but not up. Since fish almost always attacked a lure from below or the side, there was no need for it to be visible from above. That meant that the lure could produce more flashes in the right directions per retrieve than stamped metal spoon lures.

Yet another benefit of the rocking spoon-down motion was that anglers no longer had to worry about line twist or special swivels. Spinning spoon lures used without swivels twist fishing line, and contribute to backlashes and tangles. To this day, Johnson Silver Minnows are manufactured with a simple soldered wire eye. Line can be tied directly to the lure without fear of line twist. The one exception would be when using the versatile Silver Minnow for” pike or muskellunge. Since even medium-sized pike will often inhale the entire lure, it is wise to use the lure with a short steel leader.

The Silver Minnow’s rocking motion also helps control the sinking rate when cast. Whereas many spoons simply dive to the bottom tail first, the Silver Minnow gently drops horizontally, rocking in its characteristic motion. This gives an angler ample time to take up the slack after cast and begin the retrieve before the lure has had a chance to bury itself in weedy cover, or behind a log. This feature also makes the lure effective the second it touches the water. Many strikes on the Silver Minnow come as the just-cast lure is rocking gently toward the bottom.

Trailers and the Silver Minnow.

The Johnson Silver Minnow is a deadly lure when fished plain, but when it is combined with a trailer, it is especially effective in triggering strikes. In addition, the Silver Minnow’s unique rocking motion is not affective by a trailer like many other spoons are.

For traditionalists, a pork rind trailer of red/white or yellow/white is one of the best combinations. Adding a red 3-inch waving tail imitates the red gill rakers that would show on a wounded or distressed bait fish. This works like a visual “dinner bell” to a predatory fish, who would rather attack a slower, “wounded” fish than try to catch a fast, healthy one.

But red is not always the color of choice. Often some experimentation is needed to find out what color of trailer will be working on that day, in that lake, on that particular species of fish in that particular kind of cover. Newer plastic trailers are more convenient than the traditional pork rind, and can be carried in a great variety of colors with less weight and bulk. Soft plastic Silver Minnow Trailers in a variety of colors, are now marketed by Johnson Fishing for use with all Silver Minnows.

The Silver Minnow Today
The Johnson Silver Minnow is still manufactured in the same way it was in 1920 — by hand — and still plated with real silver for the brightest possible underwater “flash.” Originally manufactured in Chicago by the Louis Johnson Company, the lure was purchased by Johnson Fishing Inc. of Mankato, MN in 1974. In 1976, manufacturing facilities were moved to Johnson Fishing’s Bass Buster Lure division in Amsterdam, MO. The Silver Minnow continues to be one of the best selling lures of all time.

Gettysburg Times, August 11, 1993


And that is a brief history of the Johnson Minnow. The Johnson Minnow has been in continuous production longer than any other fishing lure in history. There just might be a good reason for that.

Thanks for the great response, Chuck- I was able to turn it into a blog!

John Kumiski

New Single Use Female Urinary Device Lets Women Pee While Standing

This is an awesome idea, the perfect gift for the outdoors woman on your list!

Women have it rough… out for hike or camping or a kayak ride and complaining about having to pee in the bushes? The answer is here ….

Developed by a team of doctors, pee pocketTM is ideal for any woman on the go, who has to go!

THE PEE POCKET female urinary device is perfect for athletes, travelers, the elderly, disabled, pregnancy, parents of young girls, post-surgery patients – any woman who might have to go while on the go; active women who enjoy the outdoors, sports, music festivals, camping, hiking, biking, traveling, etc. Sketchy bathrooms — or nonexistent ones! — are no match for this handy device. It fits easily into a purse or backpack and is a must-have for germ-conscious women who don’t have access to a sit-down toilet or who don’t want to use unfit facilities.

THE PEE POCKET is a single use, waterproof disposable funnel allowing women to pee while standing. Its convenient tri-fold design easily fits in purse or pocket and includes a hygienic tissue wipe and disposable bag. Use without getting hands or other body parts wet.

THE PEE POCKET was created by team of doctors who were fed up with the mess after taking their young daughters to unfit facilities.

THE PEE POCKET comes in single pockets for $1.75 or three packs for $4.95.

For more information, please visit

Check out our youtube videos:

Obviously I haven’t tried this myself but it looks like a device any outdoor woman would love. I know a few ladies who will be getting these!

John Kumiski

Only Fished One Day This Week Freshwater Orlando Fishing Report

Only Fished One Day This Week Freshwater Orlando Fishing Report

It’s been one of those weeks. A real cold front came through. The water temperature in the Mosquito Lagoon went from the 80s to the 60s in four days. My computer crashed. More stuff broke on my old car. The wind howled all week. I didn’t have any charters.

Another week went by with only one day of fishing in. It seems to be a disturbing trend.

On the other hand, Fishing Florida’s Space Coast has been released as an ebook. See it (and hopefully buy it) here…

Recent Blogs-

-The Old Town Has Had Its Last Ride

There’s a New Ebook on Fishing Florida’s Space Coast!

Upcoming Events: I’m speaking on the Indian River Paddle Adventure at the Backcountry Flyfishing Association November meeting, 630 pm on November 13, Orlando Outfitters. Come see!
-Indian River Lagoon Paddle Adventure kick-off party, at sunset on November 29th at the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach.

ENVIRONMENTAL ALERT! Reader Robert Pence sent me the following email:

“The Canaveral Port Authority has begun the permitting process for the building of a rail line from the North Port area to Merritt Island. This line will cross the Banana River Lagoon to the south of KARS Park, effectively, if not entirely, closing access to most of the present No Motor zone. It will also cause more damage to the Banana River Lagoon ecosystem and fishing in the Indian River Lagoon.

“If this has an undesirable effect to you, please attend one of the two public scoping meetings being held by the Office of Environmental Analysis and provide your comments. The meeting are:

-November 18th, 5-8 pm @Eastern Florida state College, Titusville Campus, John Henry Jones Gymnatoriam, 1311 North US1, Titusville, FL 32796;

-November 19th, 5-8 pm, Radisson Resort at the Port Convention Center, 8701 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral, FL 32920

“Please attend if you want to protect our lagoons and the No Motor Zone fishing area.”

Even though I think the Port Authority will do whatever it wants I hope to see some of you there.

OK, fishing. Once in a while fishing lures show up in my mail box. I don’t ask for them, they’re like gifts from God (or at least lure manufacturers). Last week a three-pack of ZMan Pop Shadz showed up. They’re soft plastic baits, five inches long. Nothing revolutionary there. You rig them on a 5/0 offset wide-gap hook, making them pretty darned weedless. Nothing revolutionary there, either. They have a popper face. That’s unusual in a soft plastic bait. And, they are buoyant enough to float, even with the hook in them. This combination is revolutionary, in a minor way.

I was looking forward to trying them. I had been looking for a lure like this for a long time.

I took them to one of my bass fishing spots in the St. Johns River system. The weeds were thick, and the Pop Shad went right through them. I only got one bite on it, from a ten inch bass, but it was the only bite I got on anything. Let’s not forget that 15 degree plus water temperature drop. The fish must be reeling.

So the test was not an unqualified success but I like the way the bait works. I am going to catch some fish on this bait in both salt- and freshwater.

They also have a PopFrogz. It looks good, too. See them both at

Gotta go work on my car. See you next week, when I will hopefully get some fishing in!

That is this week’s exciting version of the Freshwater Orlando Fishing Report.

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short. Go Fishing!

John Kumiski


All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2013. All rights are reserved.

There’s a New Ebook on Fishing Florida’s Space Coast!

There’s a New Ebook on Fishing Florida’s Space Coast!

Fishing Florida’s Space Coast- Newly Revised Ebook Edition, By Capt. John Kumiski

Fishing Florida's Space Coast

Do you want to catch fish along Florida’s Space Coast?

This stretch of Florida’s Atlantic coast and the adjacent Indian River Lagoon system offers world class angling for redfish, black drum, spotted seatrout, tripletail, and more. In addition, snook, tarpon, cobia, Spanish and king mackerel, little tunny, jack crevalle, bluefish, barracuda, sharks, and many other species can be found in these waters at various times of the year.

Do you know how to catch them?

This ebook will make you a better fisherman. You will learn:

-How to choose rods, reels, lines, lures, baits, rigging, and techniques that work along the Space Coast.

-When to fish. The fishery changes with the seasons. This book will help you adjust your strategies.

-Where to fish. The text pinpoints hotspots all along the Space Coast and tells you where to find them with Google Maps.


Many of the Space Coast’s finest anglers shared secrets contained in this ebook.

This new ebook is your constant reference on how, when, and where to fish along Florida’s Space Coast. Whether you have fished here all your life, are an experienced angler fishing here for the first time, or are just getting involved in fishing, you will refer to this guidebook again and again for the information you need to be more successful.


The print edition sold thousands of copies!


Capt. John Kumiski has been guiding Space Coast fishermen for over 25 years and touches every page of this book with his wealth of knowledge and expertise.

This book will make you a better fisherman!

Fishing Florida’s Space Coast Newly Revised Ebook Edition, $4.99!

Available from Smashwords,

The Old Town Has Had its Last Ride

The Old Town Has Had its Last Ride- A Pictorial Ride Down Memory Lane

An old friend of mine has passed on. The ancient Old Town Tripper, serial number 211999, has had its last ride. It rode atop my van to the Seminole County landfill, where it was unceremoniously dumped. It deserved a better ending.

The lady at the entrance to the landfill said I had to pay to dispose to it. She said the free disposal county residents got only applied to household trash, old furniture and such. I said that although it looked like a canoe it was actually an end table from my living room. She laughed. I still had to pay seven dollars.

In Crawford Notch, NH, preparing for the Saco.

In Crawford Notch, NH, preparing for the Saco.

Jim Tedesco bought it in 1976 from Fernald Marine, on the River Parker, in Newbury, Massachusetts. A couple years later he moved to California. Before he left I bought it from him and had it until about ten years ago, when I sold it to son Maxx. He used it for canoe jousting. It has been sitting in my yard, providing wonderful habitat for insects, for about five years now. It was old, beat to hell, and really had nothing left to offer. Sadly, it was time to dispose of it.

Jim Tedesco, on Maine's St. Johns River.

Jim Tedesco, on Maine’s St. Johns River.

I learned to paddle whitewater in that canoe. I’ve taken at least ten trips of ten days or longer in it, in Maine and in Florida’s Everglades National Park, used it on rivers in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina as well. I had it when I was a canoeing counselor at Camp Chickawah in Maine and a pioneering counselor at Camp Regis-Applejack in New York. My first trip to Florida included a six day canoe trip in the Everglades from that boat. My first salmon, first bonefish, first redfish, first tarpon, all caught from the Tripper.

With Peter Camuso on the Westfield River in Massachusetts.

With Peter Camuso on the Westfield River in Massachusetts.

I’ve slept in it, once. It was not a comfortable night.

With Jim Tedesco in Carrot Rip, Machias River, Maine.

With Jim Tedesco in Carrot Rip, Machias River, Maine.

Both my sons had their first canoe trips in that boat. My son Maxx and his friend Brian enjoyed their first whitewater paddling in the Tripper, on the Tuckaseegee and the Nantahala, back when they were still in high school.

Susie O'Brien, Third Machias Lake, Maine.

Susie O’Brien, Third Machias Lake, Maine.

I’ve fallen out of it quite a few times, with quite a few different people. One memorable dump preceded my swimming through the Dumplings, on Vermont’s West River, on the Saturday before Columbus Day one year. There were hundreds of people watching, shouting advice. I held onto the boat and self-rescued.

What needs to be said???

What needs to be said???

Most memorable, though was rolling it over off Cape Sable with my pregnant wife in the bow. I was running it with a little outboard and when it started to go there was no way to brace it. BAM! We were both in the water. When Maxx was born there was a wind knot in his umbilical cord. Susan and I know how that happened.

Sue relaxing.

Sue relaxing.

When I think back on it, it amazes me that a molded piece of plastic could have provided such a theme around which to wrap my life. BOATS! On the one hand a canoe is only “stuff,” but it provided so much pleasure, so many memories, so much access to wilderness not to be enjoyed any other way.

Ken Shannon tends the campfire in Everglades National Park.

Ken Shannon tends the campfire in Everglades National Park.

To say I felt a twinge of emotion as I drove home from the landfill would be understating the obvious. Fortunately there is another canoe in my yard.

My first tarpon, Bear Lake, Everglades National Park.

My first tarpon, Bear Lake, Everglades National Park.

Maxx and Dad, Saco River, Maine.

Maxx and Dad out canoeing.

Alex and Susan, Saco River, Maine.

Alex and Susan, Saco River, Maine.

Power Ranger ready to paddle!

Power Ranger ready to paddle!

Using the Old Town on a no motor zone charter, Banana River Lagoon.

Using the Old Town on a no motor zone charter, Banana River Lagoon.

Camping on the chickee, Everglades. My boys were 13 and 11 at the time.

Camping on the chickee, Everglades. My boys were 13 and 11 at the time.

Another day, another car, a different companion. Same canoe...

Another day, another car, son Maxx. Same canoe.

No motor area, Everglades National Park.

No motor area, Everglades National Park.

Maxx battles a snook, Mud Lake.

Maxx battles a snook, Mud Lake.

Maxx and Brian Jaye at Nantahala Falls, North Carolina.

Maxx and Brian Jaye at Nantahala Falls, North Carolina.

I feel a need to go paddling…

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.

Poppers for Seatrout

Poppers for Seatrout

poppers for seatrout

Lovely when alive, tasty on the table, spotted seatrout are one of Florida’s favorite saltwater fish. The problem is, unless you find a really big one (not easy to do) trout are weaklings at the end of your line. They just don’t get the adrenaline going. But you can make trout fishing more fun by using poppers for seatrout.

There’s the visual aspect of using the plug. You can see the lure, and you can see the fish hit it. There’s the very satisfying “Smack!” sound when a good fish takes it. Believe it or not, the missed strikes are fun, and sometimes a fish will hit it four or five times in a row until the hook finally sticks, or doesn’t.

As in all things in fishing there are a variety of plugs on the market that will work. For most of this type of work I like a popping plug, and the Chug Bug (made by Storm Lures) is probably my favorite. Not only does the “pop” of this lure attract the fish, but it has rattles inside for extra attraction power. It calls the fish to it from quite a distance and there’s something almost magical about its appeal to seatrout. Of course, redfish, snook, tarpon, and crevalle will whack it too. I’ve even caught snapper with them.

poppers for seatrout

Storm’s Chug Bug comes in three sizes. All are effective lures for seatrout.

Another excellent surface lure for seatrout is the DOA Shallow Running Bait Buster. This soft plastic mullet imitation features a single hook, great for when floating grass or other debris makes using a lure with gang hooks impractical. While you don’t get the “bloop!” of a Chug Bug you fish it much the same way.

Seatrout on DOA Bait Buster

The Bait Buster is a great lure for any mullet-eating fish.

During the summertime (coming right up!) your best strategy is to get out early (before sunrise) and find a flat that’s about two feet deep with a bottom that has a mixture of sand and grass. Lots of mullet in the vicinity are a definite plus. Working around the edges of bars or docks is also a very good idea. If you’re in a boat you can drift, use a trolling motor on slow speed, or push the boat with a pushpole. Waders can have good success too, though.

Cast the lure as far as you can, and work it back to you. How fast should you retrieve? How hard should you pop it?

Only the fish can answer this question, and experimentation with your retrieve is the best course of action. When you find what they like best, keep doing it until it stops working.

One time when I had Michael Grant out in my boat we were both tossing Chug Bugs. I was using small, steady pops, reeling at a moderate rate, and was getting the occasional bite. Michael was using great, loud pops, reeling slowly. He was getting bites every second or third cast. Of course I changed my retrieve to imitate was he was doing and my success rate went right up.

So if you want to make trout fishing more entertaining, try to using poppers for seatrout.

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.

Sharkwave Fly Lines Coming

Sharkwave Fly Lines Coming

Whether you hated or loved the Sharkskin line, here comes an entire family of them. The latest press release from Scientific Anglers-

The Development of the SharkWave
When we introduced the Sharkskin™ family of lines in 2007, they weren’t simply the latest in a long line of high-quality innovations. The Sharkskin created an entirely new category of product: textured fly lines. These lines, developed and manufactured at the Scientific Anglers facility in Midland, Michigan, represented one of the most interesting and groundbreaking evolutions in the history of fly line technology.

The benefits of the textured lines were numerous: increased surface area allowed the lines to sit higher in the water, offering less drag, easier mending, less water spray, and easier pick-ups; the micro-textured surface trapped air to provide increases in both shootability and flotation—all while decreasing friction; and the microreplicated pattern increased the durability of the lines, allowing them to last up to twice as long.

The accolades mounted. But we knew we could do better.

Using what we learned while developing the Sharkskin, we developed the Mastery Textured series. These lines took the high points of the Sharkskin technology and combined them with the easy feel of traditional, smooth fly lines, resulting in a textured line that performs like the Sharkskin, but feels smoother to the touch.

Then something struck us: Let’s take the best parts of the Sharkskin, combine it with the Mastery Textured series, and see what happens.

The result? Meet the SharkWave, the world’s first Triple-Textured and Triple-Colored fly line. Featuring Sharkskin texture on the tip section, Mastery Textured divots for the belly and running line, a smooth Tactile Reference Point at the AFTMA 30-foot mark, SA•ID line identification, AST dry slick technology, Improved Dry Tip technology, and Streamlined Loops, the SharkWave is unlike any fly line we’ve ever produced.

It’s fishing. Friction-free.

It won’t be cheap. I hope they include finger guards in the box.

See the entire press release with photos, graphs, and illustrations here…

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.

Lunkerhunt Swim Bentos Bait

Lunkerhunt Swim Bentos Bait

Whether a fish you cast to bites or not generally depends more on how you present the bait than what it is. That having been said, a confidence factor definitely affects how that bait gets fished.

I just got three packages of confidence in a box FedEx delivered.

Lunkerhunt makes fishing lures. They’re based in Toronto. What could they know about saltwater lures? A glance at the picture below shows that clearly they understand what fish will bite and what fishermen will buy. Their baits are gorgeous.

lunkerhunt swim bentos

Their website says, “Designed to perfection, the Lunkerhunt Swim Bento™ is one of the most realistic baitfish imitators on the market. The Swim Bento™ features a lively keeled tail, holographic core, and biologically correct detailing. All of these elements are incorporated into a soft yet durable body construction that enables the Swim Bento™ to come to life with the slightest movement.”

These baits have not made it off my desk yet but there can be no doubt that they will catch any kind of inshore saltwater fish Florida fishermen are interested in.

You can see how to rig them properly here and here. These rigging instruction will work for any kind of jerk bait, too.

I usually fish these types of baits slowly, with gentle twitches of the rod tip to give the bait a dying minnow type of action. Of course, every situation is different, so individual interpretation comes into play.

The Lunkerhunt website shows all their other baits (they specialize in baits for bass and pike) and also tells you where you can get some Swim Bentos of your own. There are also a bunch of videos there if you like that sort of thing.

What are you waiting for? Go get some Swim Bentos!

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.

How to Buy Fishing Sunglasses

How to Buy Fishing Sunglasses

fishing sunglasses

These glass lenses have been good to me for a long time.

All fishermen should wear Polarized fishing sunglasses while fishing. They protect your eyes from both the sun and from errant fishhooks. A fishhook through the cornea or a sunburned retina will ruin your day.

Your fishing sunglasses will be wonderful for driving too, something to keep in mind when you’re counting your pennies.

You should wear the best fishing sunglasses you can afford. You only get two eyes and when they’re permanently damaged you’re out of luck. If you don’t need a prescription, the highest quality fishing sunglasses can be purchased at discount houses, such as Sierra Trading Post. If you need a prescription, though, be prepared to part with $200-400. Sorry.

Look for sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of all ultraviolet light. Sunglasses with lenses that wrap around to your temples keep out more light and UV radiation than typical lenses. Keep in mind that most good fishing sunglasses are not labelled “fishing sunglasses.”

Fishing Sunglasses Lens Material

Your first decision once you have decided to spend some money is whether you want glass or polycarbonate lenses. Compared to glass, polycarbonate scratches easily. If you like to keep up with the latest styles, and have new glasses two or three times a year, it makes sense to get polycarbonate lenses. Poly lenses have the highest impact protection. From that point of view they are the best lenses you can get. Polycarbonate lenses require more care than glass; for example, they should not be cleaned with any paper products. They should be cleaned with a microfiber cloth after being wetted with clean water or a lens cleaning solution.

If, however, you dropped $350 for a prescription pair and want them to last as long as possible, you may prefer glass. They will be heavier than the polycarbonate. I have a pair of prescription glass lenses that are on their fourth set of frames. Glass lenses will last for years if you give them a modest amount of care. And this may make purists shudder, but I clean my glass lenses by licking them and then rubbing them clean with a paper towel.

Read the rest of this article here…


John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.

A Review of The Old Town Penobscot 174

A Review of The Old Town Penobscot 174

Old Town Penobscot review

We hear and see so much about kayaks and kayak fishing these days. Undeniably, kayaks have certain advantages- they’re small, they’re very portable, and when you’re in a solo kayak there is no compromise. You can do exactly what you want, whenever you want to do it.

Canoes seem to have been left behind in all this. This really is too bad, because canoes have some advantages, too. You can stand up sometimes, to rest your butt and get a better view of the water than if you were sitting. While a bit larger than a kayak, canoes are still very portable. And they have one huge advantage over a kayak when it comes to long trips- they have a much larger load capacity.

Another advantage of the canoe if you’re a shallow water fisherman is that you can stand and pole it. I spent quite a bit of time on the trip described below standing and poling the vessel with a ferruled two-piece 14 foot Moonlighter push pole. It works wonderfully well!

Five of us just made a 160-mile paddle along the full length of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. Three of the participants were in canoes. Two were in kayaks. Before the trip started I wondered how the kayakers would carry all the gear they needed for a trip of that length.

It didn’t take me long to find out. They kayakers lived on freeze-dried food, ramen noodles, cookies, and cliff bars. The canoeists ate real food- apples and oranges, fresh vegetables, cookies (of course!), and cooked our real food on stoves, double burner Colemans. We shared our food with the kayakers, of course.

My friend Rodney Smith and I were in an Old Town Penobscot 174. We pushed it along with paddles made by Bending Branches. I expected to be lagging behind the other paddlers but was pleasantly surprised to discover we could out-paddle every other boat on the trip with the exception of Mim’s Epic kayak, a superbly designed little vessel built for speed.

old town penobcot review

Mim’s Epic is a fast little boat.

No way could Mim’s Epic carry a load like we had.

The Penobscot was, shall we say, heavily loaded. It’s rated for a 1500 pound capacity. I believe it would handle that load easily. Throughout our trip it paddled and handled like a dream.

Indian River Lagoon Paddle Adventure

We had too much stuff. We made it work.

Old Town builds this boat in a Royalex version and a polypropelene version. To the casual observer they are identical. The Royalex boat weighs 65 pounds, the poly vessel 83. There’s an $800 price difference, though- a hefty $50 a pound.

If frequent portages were a consideration, the extra money would be well spent.

Here in Florida I’d use the difference to get good paddles- the already mentioned Bending Branches. In the stern I used a Sunburst ST. I’ve been paddling a long time and have used a lot of different paddles. This is the best ever. In the bow Rodney used a vintage Bending Branches bent shaft paddle that he likewise said was the best one he had ever used.

old town penobcot review

The Bending Branches Sunburst ST taking a break along the Indian River Lagoon.

Both of us were extremely pleased with both the boat and the paddles. If we were to do it again, we would do it exactly the same way. The boat and the paddles are made for each other.

So ends a review of the Old Town Penobscot 174 and the Bending Branches Sunburst ST.

John Kumiski

All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2014. All rights are reserved.